The government risks breaching its obligation to provide a criminal defence service unless it urgently comes to the rescue of struggling legal aid firms, the Law Society warned this afternoon.
Without extra support on top of existing initiatives to help businesses survive Covid-19, the sector is facing collapse, Chancery Lane says.
Writing for lawgazette.co.uk, president Simon Davis renews the Society’s appeal for further help with cashflow through the Standard Monthly Payment scheme, together with business rates relief. Chancery Lane also wants previous legal aid cuts reversed, and the restarting of work on criminal and civil sustainability ‘to give firms reason to believe that there is a better future worth struggling on for’.
He adds: ‘Legal aid is a public service. The government has no obligation to ensure a supply of hairdressers or restaurants. It does have a legal obligation to ensure a supply of legal aid solicitors. Moreover, we are not talking about the loss of a handful of firms here and there whose work could be absorbed by those who remain. We are talking about the potential loss of much of the legal aid sector, causing a profound impact on access to justice.’
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.